The embattled 15 crew members of the tanker Qaaswa, marooned off Tunisia for months, are now safely home with most of their owed wages – thanks to the ITF.
Paul Falzon, ITF contact in Malta, has been helping the crew on a daily basis since 13 May, when they responded to ITF calls. The ITF had been offering help for weeks after hearing from Malta that there was a ship outside its national waters whose crew felt threatened by the company.
At that time, the company, Alco Shipping Services, had not paid the crew’s wages for more than four months, had failed to carry out repairs on the vessel and refused to give the crew cash, meaning the 13 Indian and two Pakistani seafarers could not contact their families.
After passing by Malta, the vessel was kept 100 miles out at sea, after which it was ordered to anchor just off the coast of SfaxI. For long stretches of time, Alco left the vessel without fresh water and provisions and was trying to force the crew to sail the unfit vessel to Egypt.
The co-ordinated intervention of Mr Falzon and Mohamed Arrachedi, ITF inspector and Arab World Co-ordination Network, included the support of ITF union the Federation Nationale des Transports/UGTT. This was instrumental both in enabling the vessel to remain in Tunisian waters and in the Tunisian authorities’ decision to order a port state control visit to the tanker on 25 May. The ITF also urged the Indian and Pakistani embassies in Tunisia to act on behalf of the crew.
Mr Arrachedi said: “What a relief for the crew to get home safely to their families after their ordeal. I know they are immensely grateful for all the help and support they received.
“The story isn’t over yet, however. We’re still pursuing one May salary and all the crew’s salaries for June – and will keep on until the men are paid what they are owed in full.
“And sadly, we’re also defending the crew of another two of the same company’s ships which are abandoned – the Sharjah Moon, which is docked in Hamriyah Port, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, and the Ocean Pride, which is at anchorage off the UAE coast. We’re making every effort to persuade Alco Shipping Services to act to solve this crisis.”